Sunday, October 12, 2014

Parmesan Peppercorn "No Knead" Bread

I've made this bread twice in one week.  It's that good.  

The recipe was inspired by our daughter and son-in-law who love the Parmesan pepper bread that they buy at a favorite Italian restaurant and retail sore.  They had brought us a sample of that bread this past summer and I wanted to see if I could recreate for them when they came for dinner this past week. 

I decided on using a hearty, no knead, crusty bread for my experiment - the kind of bread that you bake in a covered dutch oven. After the dough had risen for the specified amount of time,  I patted it into a rectangle and spread a good half cup or so of finely diced Parmesan cheese and sprinkled on a good dose of freshly ground black pepper. I rolled it up into a log and allowed it to rest under plastic wrap until the oven and cast iron dutch oven were heated and ready to use.

I was very pleased at the look of the bread when I removed it from the oven! But would it taste as great as it looked?

The answer came when my son-in-law asked to take the uneaten portion of the bread home with him :)  I made it again two days later when our other daughter and her boyfriend came for dinner and certainly it won't be the last time!

Autumn is in full swing here in the Midwest!   My fall crocus is blooming and the leaves on the trees are turning red and gold and falling in a carpet on the lawn which makes great fun for two little boys to enjoy, especially with the beautiful week of weather we've enjoyed. 

Parmesan Peppercorn "No Knead" Bread

Makes one loaf

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups luke-warm water
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon regular yeast
1/2 to 3/4 cup finely diced Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons freshly ground black peppercorns (more or less depending on your taste)

Special equipment: A large dutch oven with lid, preferably enamel-covered cast iron
Tip:  Use a coffee bean grinder to grind larger amounts of peppercorns

In a large bowl, blend together the flour, salt and yeast. Add the warm water stir together.  The mixture will be wet and shaggy looking.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place on the kitchen counter at room temperature for 8-18 hours.

After dough is ready to use, preheat the oven to 450 F.

Pour the dough onto a well-floured surface.  Flour your hands and pat the dough into a rough rectangle about 8" x 14".  Spread the diced parmesan cheese and ground black pepper over the dough and roll up into a log from the narrower side. Cover with the plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes or so.

While dough is resting, put a dutch oven with lid into the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

At this time, I cut three very shallow slashes across the top of the bread with a serrated knife (don't cut too deep or the cheese will ooze out).

Then, carefully remove the dutch oven with hot pads and, using floured hands, place the bread dough into the dutch. Your may need a large, floured spatula to assist you. If your dutch oven doesn't have an enamel coating have a piece of parchment paper already cut to size and place that under the dough first.

Place the dutch oven into the oven, replace the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes uncovered.

Remove to a rack and cool.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Leek Soup

What a crazy week of weather it has been here!  Monday, it was 84F, by late Monday afternoon it dropped to 59F.  It warmed to 80 again on Thursday, cold and rainy on Friday and tonight we have a frost warning.  This is a soup weekend if there ever was one!

Last week, a fellow blogger, Bonnie, at From a Writer's Kitchen, wrote about a butternut squash soup made with apple that she found in the Chicago Tribute. You can click on the link above and see the recipe Bonnie made. It sounds wonderful and I love butternut squash.  Bonnie mentioned how flavorful the soup was with the hint of apple.

Then, a couple of days later, I happened to pick up the cookbook that I had won in a giveaway from Sam at My Carolina Kitchen, called Savoring the Hamptons, where I found a recipe for Butternut Squash, Apple and Leek Soup. I've made a couple of recipes from the book when we entertained this past summer but when I'm entertaining I rarely have time to take pictures.  So finally, Sam, I was able to make AND photograph a wonderful recipe from this cookbook! It was delicious and my husband loved it too.  Thank you so much for this wonderful cookbook, Sam!  I have many more recipes bookmarked to try.

The addition of the apple, leeks, onion, sage, a splash of freshly squeezed orange juice, along with parsley and sage really made this a top-notch recipe.  The recipe also mentions the optional garnish of plain croutons but I had to bring those up a notch also so I baked mine with a generous sprinkle of black pepper, garlic salt and some chopped fresh herbs.  They were perfect with the soup. 

Thank you again, Bonnie, for the idea, and to you, Sam, for the cookbook.

I mentioned in my last post that I would share a few more photos of our trip to Atlanta where we attended a wedding in September. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens were a highlight along with a visit to The Swan House that same day.  

Those of you who have seen the movie, The Hunger Games - Catching Fire, may recognize the opulent facade of the home with it's five-tiered waterfall in the center of the staircase.  This is what guests saw upon entering the driveway. The photo at the bottom of the above collage is the rear of the home where carriages or cars would pull around to enter the home.  

Above, you see the beautiful foyer and staircase, the dining, room, library and sitting room.  Another very highly recommended stop if you are ever in the Atlanta area.  It doesn't cost anything to do your own self-guided tour of the home where you can walk around freely and enjoy all of the rooms with original furnishings. To enter the museum on the property you do need to pay admission.  All of the above photos (except for the one from the movie) I took on our visit.  Below is a wonderful video if you would like to see a little more and learn about the owners and history of the home which is now owned by the Atlanta Historic Center.  It will also show you a glimpse into the kitchen, which I thought was very interesting too. Be sure to click on the "Full Screen" icon on the bottom right. Update: I have noticed that the YouTube video does not show up on some mobile devices.  Here is the link if you are interested in viewing it.

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Leek Soup

Adapted from Savoring The Hamptons
Printable Recipe

Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 butternut squash 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
2 leeks
1 onion
1 tart apple
6 cups chicken stock (low sodium if using store bought)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup finely chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley (plus a little more for croutons)
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves (plus a little more for croutons)
Black pepper, Garlic and Herb croutons (recipe follows)

Peel, seed and cut butternut squash into 1-inch pieces using a large chef's knife. Trim, wash and thinly slice leeks and onion. Peel, core and coarsely chop apple.

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan or stock pot over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the butternut squash, leeks, onion and apple and saute for a minute or two. Then, place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper over the vegetables and cover the pan. "Sweat" the vegetables for about 7 minutes. Remove and discard the paper.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the orange juice and cook the soup over low to medium heat at a steady simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.

Puree the soup in the pan with an immersion blender, or, puree in several batches in a regular blender.

The soup can be prepared ahead up to this point and refrigerated, covered, until ready to serve. Bring back to a simmer, add the chopped parsley and sage and serve with croutons, if desired.

Black pepper, Garlic and Herb Croutons
Preheat oven to 350F.

Choose a good loaf of French bread, sliced. Prepare 1-2 slices for each person. Brush each side of bread with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with ground black pepper and garlic salt. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley or sage, if desired. Cut each slice of bread in 1" x 1" pieces (you do not need to remove crust) and scatter in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Toast in preheated oven for about 7-8 minutes until golden. Watch carefully toward the end so they do not burn.